Before this tournament started a lot of people had Croatia down as their dark horses to cause a major upset in the European Championships and who cold blame them after Slaven Bilic’s side came through a tough qualifying group to make it to this years competition. But having watched them struggle to overcome Austria last night my faith in the Croats to cause any kind of upset has slowly drained away.
Their performance last night was far from impressive having hung on for the majority of the second half against a team who are ranked below Mozambique in the FIFA rankings. Take nothing away from Austria though who gave it everything and with a bit more luck could have easily taken a point from a game which after the first 15 minutes I thought the Austrian’s where going to be steamrollered. The Croatia we saw briefly at the beginning of the first half was the side that so many pundits had placed as their possibly side to upset the apple cart. They played the balls to feet quickly and where constantly going forward and causing the Austrian defence all kinds of problems. The likes of Luka Modric and Daniel Srna looked lively and much of Croatia’s play went through them. The major weakness that the Croats face is a lack of goals now they have lost Eduardo who managed to net 10 in qualifying for this tournament. This lack of threat really showed last night as Ivica Olic and Mladen Petric worked hard for the cause but never really threatened, the sight of Petric blazing a golden opportunity into the crowd in the first half could be a sign of things to come.
In fact having watched Croatia again since they beat England back in October I am now very worried that my pick for the Euros will struggle to get past the group stages. With the Germans coming up next a point will be vital if they hope to go into the last game ahead of Poland who I expect to dispatch Austria. But the chances of Croatia getting anything from that game could well have dried up. Germany looked pretty good last night and should have put at least three past the Poles, Mario Gomez more guilty than most of wasting chances. If the Germans click into gear against Croatia then the Balkan country could be in for a long and nervy night. Click here for the last Euro 2008 odds for Croatia Vs Germany or any of the games taking place in the competition.
That said I’m sure Bilic will have his troops fired up for their encounter with the Germans on Thursday and as the BBC have pointed out Croatia are slow starters when it comes to major tournaments. In fact its fairly impressive that Croatia have a team at the Euros at all being the smallest country in the tournament in terms of population with just 4.4million residing their. It puts to shame the likes of England who failed to qualify with all their money and facilities when you compare them with what Croatia have to go on. Bilic is paid just £35,000-a-year to manage the side, an amount which some English footballers earn in a few days. From having seen the side play and read about them on the internet there is certainly a large amount of pride involved with playing for the national side, something which a few sides lack. Last week Ronald de Boer claimed that the Dutch side lacked the pride required to pull on the orange shirt. It’s also plain to see that some of the England players don’t take much honour in supporting the three lions on their chest, for them its just another means to increase their profile.
That’s why I went for Croatia before the tournament started, the way in which they showed up England in qualifying was a sight to behold, especially the 3-2 victory at Wembley. Whilst most English fans believe that their side deserves to be there it was Croatia who earned the right to play at this summer’s tournament. Despite the doubts cast by the side with their performance last night I believe that if they can get themselves together for the next game against Germany then they will give the favourites a run for their money and possibly maintain their tag of dark horses, although that is easier said than done.
Good luck with you football betting and enjoy the tournament.